August 2012, arsenal cinema

Retrospective Andrei Tarkovsky

The summer Tarkovsky retrospective is a tradition that has grown dear both to us and our audiences over the past 20 years. In addition to screening the seven full-length films by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky (1932--1986), who would have turned 80 in April of this year, we will also be showing three documentaries on or by the director as part of the July and August retrospective.

We are showing the film KATOK I SKRIPKA (The Steamroller and the Violin, USSR 1960), with which Tarkovsky graduated from the state film school, together with his last film OFFRET (The Sacrifice, Sweden, France 1986, July 22 & August 15). KATOK I SKRIPKA shows one day in the life of thoughtful boy Sasha, who prefers his violin to playing football, leading his schoolmates to mock him. A solitary, isolated island forms the setting for OFFRET. 50-year-old Alexander's birthday celebrations are in full swing when news of an atomic strike stops the party guests in their tracks. Tarkovsky’s vision employs striking images and dialogue to successfully unite a poetic film language with a philosophical religious discourse.

In IWANOWO DETSTWO (Ivan's Childhood, USSR 1962, July 23 & August 8), Tarkovsky traces "the story of a character who is born as a result of war and ends up being consumed by it" (A.T.). During the Second World War, twelve-year-old orphan Ivan comes across the Red Army in the Dnieper region and cannot be dissuaded from working behind enemy lines as a spy and courier for the Soviet troops. Tarkovsky skillfully weaves together the plot of the film with Ivan's dreams, memories and fantasies.

The artist and the power of the state clash in uncompromising manner in ANDREJ RUBLJOW (Andrei Rublev, USSR 1966–69, July 29 & August 19). This monumental Cinemascope film is split into eight chapters and depicts the legendary icon painter Rublev (around 1360–1430) as an enlightened humanist artist on the cusp of the modern era. The inhuman war and power politics of his employer plunge him into a profound creative crisis, whilst at the same time providing the impetus for an exploration of the complex situation of the artist within society.

SOLARIS (USSR 1971/72, July 31 & August 12) is based on the novel of the same name by Stanislaw Lem. The story focuses on the journey of a psychologist named Kelvin, who is sent to the sea-covered planet of Solaris to investigate strange occurrences on the research station there. Kelvin gradually realizes that the mysterious ocean on Solaris is capable of making the dreams, fears and guilt of the men on the space station take material form. 

In the strongly autobiographical film SERKALO (Mirror, USSR 1975, August 5 & 20), the protagonist reveals his life, memories, fears and obsessions. He is the son of divorced parents in search of lost time and his own identity. His private fate is linked to the traumas and upheavals in Soviet society between 1930 and the early 1970s.

STALKER (USSR 1980, August 3 & 14) Led by a local scout who lives in a rundown industrial landscape on the edge of the world, a scientist and a writer set out into the mysterious "zone", which is allegedly home to a place where one’s most secret wishes come true. The expedition becomes a journey into the protagonists themselves, into the imaginary and into silence.

"In NOSTALGHIA (Italy 1983, August 9 & 26), I wanted to depict the Russian form of nostalgia, that mental state entirely specific to our nation which grips us when we are far away from home." A Russian writer also finds himself far from home after going to Italy to gather material on an Italian composer whose biography he wants to write. He is, however, overcome by an overpowering yearning for his geographical and spiritual home.

MOSKOWSKAJA ELEGIJA (Moscow Elegy, Alexander Sokurov, USSR 1987, July 25 & 30) "A monologic flow of images made up of photos showing his childhood, family and life, quotes from his oeuvre, his work and locations, underlaid with Bach and choral music and the soft voice of the reporter. The subject is Russia however and the most moving sequences are the tracking shots through Tarkovsky's Moscow flats. We see the flat in Moscow before he left for the west. And we see the house in the country, after the black at the end, which shows his burial in the faraway earth, cut in such a way as if it were a house for the afterlife, furnished for eternity, only recently left and cleared up as if for the final days, like a scene from the films of the man being portrayed. Bricks, wood, with fences and woods, unmistakably on Russian soil, where he spent his summers as a child." (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg)

UNE JOURNÉE D’ANDREI ARSENEVITCH (One Day in the Life of Andrei Arsenevich, Chris Marker, France 2000, July 26 & August 4) Andrei Tarkovsky was already in very bad health by the time his son Andrei Jr. was allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1986.  Chris Marker's video footage of his arrival in Paris forms the starting point for memories, quotes and reflections on the language of one of the great film stylists. Alongside a great deal of less well-known material, the film also shows footage commissioned by Tarkovsky when he knew he was close to death and which documents how he directed the editing process for his final film OFFRET from his sick bed.

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